Saturday, September 1, 2018

McCain on Torture and Commodity Market Manipulation

I'm far too left to be a fan of former Senator John McCain, but I did very much appreciate his willingness to stand up against torture and to rebuke the most powerful financial firms for endangering national security, particularly where uranium trading was involved.

Going back through my files, I found the following letter pasted below that I had sent McCain on behalf of my university students who wanted to invite him to our Arizona classroom (he didn't come):

October 13, 2006 
Dear Senator McCain
This semester my class is exploring the complex communication environment surrounding 9-11. An organizing theme of the course concerns the twin and sometimes competing imperatives for the state to (1) ensure simultaneously its security while (2) complying with its legal and humanitarian commitments to civil liberties.

While exploring these imperatives our class has discussed the status of enemy combatants, habeas corpus, and torture (or forceful interrogations) among other issues.

Senator McCain’s stance on forceful interrogations and prisoners’ legal rights has repeatedly surfaced as a focus of conversation and debate in the context of the state’s competing imperatives.

As Senator McCain is well aware, the character of our nation is inflected by decision making on these issues.

Accordingly, we would like to invite Senator McCain to our class at XXXXX to discuss his position on these issues. A visit such as the one proposed would help expand public understanding and dialogue of the imperatives and complications surrounding U.S. efforts to monitor and prevent terrorism. It would not, of course, constitute a “political” event but rather would serve educational purposes.

We appreciate that Senator McCain is extraordinarily busy so we would accommodate his schedule....

In addition to standing up against torture, McCain took a strong stance against the risks of financial speculation in commodities, especially uranium through his participation in an important Senate Subcommittee Report with Senator Carl Levin. I discuss this at length in my book Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy and Ecological Sustainability:
United States Senate PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Carl Levin, Chairman and John McCain, Ranking Minority Member, (2014) “Wall Street Bank Involvement with Physical Commodities: Majority and Minority Staff Report, Permanent Subcommittee. Available:

Senator Levin’s floor statement encapsulates findings:
Carl Levin, “Levin Floor Statement on the Ending Insider Trading in Commodities Act,” 4 Traders, December 16, 2014, 
The Subcommittee’s investigation found these banks involved in a breathtaking array of physical commodities activities. They owned coal mines and oil pipelines, oil tankers and refineries, electric power plants, massive amounts of copper and aluminum, even uranium.

The report concluded that centralized ownership over energy supply chains enabled “insider trading” and incentivized market manipulation, as articulated also in by Senator Levin in his floor statement:

What we found is that involvement in physical commodities gave these banks access to important nonpublic information that they could use to profit in their trading of financial products tied to those same commodities. 
In the stock market, the use of such nonpublic information is prohibited, but no such clear prohibition exists in commodities markets. That gives the biggest Wall Street banks an enormous incentive to pursue physical commodities activities, often to the detriment of consumers and manufacturers, in order to profit in financial trades by dint of the non-public information they gain from their physical commodity activities. 
And it provides the opportunity in some cases to engage in market manipulation. Senators Levit and McCain (AZ) together introduced “The Ending Insider Trading in Commodities Act” (s.3013) to prevent large financial institution from trading in physical commodities and commodity-related financial instruments while simultaneously having access to non-public information deriving from ownership status.
Levin and McCain prioritized national security over the interests of a particular sector in this report. Their recommendations were not adopted.

Financial speculation and hedging distort pricing in obvious ways, with significant externalities for everyday people, who pay prices that are taxed by financial manipulation, and for security and sustainability, as market directions are entirely speculative and do not reflect true costs and risks, as illustrated by the push for civilian nuclear energy despite the disaster produced by this sector.

Everyone knows that markets must be virtuous for capitalism to work and yet everyone knows that today's monopoly capitalism is a failed case of reform. McCain was willing to confront risky market behavior.

McCain was bellicose and that bothered me, remember when he chanted bomb-bomb-Iran, but he did have courage to stand up for what he perceived to be best for the national welfare and that meant standing up to oligarchic power.

That willingness to confront oligarchic power has withered in the Republican party with libertarians and moderates being pushed to the margins by nostalgic nationalists who seek to restore a non-sustainable carbon economy and highly stratified social class system.

McCain reminds us of a time when diversity of opinion within Republican circles was less fraught.



  1. Well, it's good that you have found some good things about McCain as there were plenty of bad things though many were not widely known such as his position on MIA's. The excessive praise these last few days shows how desperat the American society is for great men and heroes.

    You mention "non-sustainable carbon economy and highly stratified social class system" as though both were self evident. As for carbon economy are you referencing climate change? It looks to me like a highly stratified social class system is inevitable. The Soviet Union had one. They prevail in the EU. Not sure what you have in mind.

    My observation is that prospecity and environmental awareness and care go together. Denmark versus NKorea or the Soviet Union versus the USA . . . Europe versus Africa . . . Without a carbon based economy there is no way the USA can be prosperous at this time. I seem to be one of few who see Trump's emphasis on the economy and prosperity as paving the way to all sort of good. Clearly most do not.
    Trump has quite a few grandchildren and will in time have even more. I am sure he would rather they lived in a non toxic environment, and there is only so much wealth can do to protect a person. I think most liberals have trouble looking ahead. California is a wonderful example of liberal short sightedness: failure to do the three stage of the water project; inept environmentalism regarding the forests; failure to attend to the infa structure; inability of the swank costal area to grasp the Central Valley; their latest bail bond fiasco . . . you would think the leadership was very stupid, and perhaps it is.

    As a final note, excluding Sara Palin from his funeral was small minded and mean spirited and tells more about McCain than anyone realizes.

    1. Vietnam Veterans Against McCain

    2. I saw this on a website. It is peogaganda crap from GlobalResearch alt site with altright leanings

      "Make no mistake: the Trump loyalist or “Trump base” will always be that whether Mr. Trump remains president or not; whether he suddenly quits to play golf in Scotland; whether he secretly flies to Moscow to take sanctuary from the legal guns about to charge him with money laundering, bank fraud, embezzlement or treason; or whether he is kidnapped by space aliens, all of whom will be characterized by the “alt-Right” and select Fox News extremists as Godless liberals, secularists and the violent left.
      The Trump loyalist, in his absence, will seek and demand another in his stead. And the “movement”, to which money and reputations are intimately linked, will supply one.

      It is altogether clear that the dilemma now crystallized and embodied in the figure of Donald J. Trumpis actually one within the very lifeblood of the American electorate"…

      Not to mention a few nuclear reactors blowing up. Not to mention the ongoing climate catastrophes, and other environmental catastrophes. The massive fires in the northern hemisphere. The crashing of the pacific fisheries. The melting of the polar ice sheets.
      Not to mention, that Japan is hanging on by a thread, since fukushima. Japan has an economy that is crashing. When it goes the USA will go. So much self-important spin and propaganda. Probably deepstate spin on one side, or the other. The ongoing trainwreck, of fuko the clown. The inevitible endpoint, when it crashes into a nuclear power plant. These things, will make this asshole, and all of its asshole-followers, the most reviled creeps, in what is left of human history.

    3. I am not talking about trump directly. I he is a charlaton , criminal,he has some form of early alzeimers and he is crazy. I am talking about the nihilistic philosophy and politics of trumps- billionaire patrons like the kochs and its followers. The meaness, the racism the crass destruction of things is just window dressing to it. Sometimes stupid people have to experience trauma and loss, to see reality.

      There was no cult of coolidge or hoover or any of the freaks after the great depression. No adulation of nazis after ww2. Things are about to be worse. Never had multiple nuclear catastrophes here, along w everything else.

      The Japanese are not, doing so well with theirs. That is, inspite of all the hype, lies and major coverup. That is because thereis not much that can be done.

    4. "I saw this on a website. It is peogaganda crap from GlobalResearch alt site with altright leanings"

      So McCain was a hero and great patriot? Why did so many veterans despise the man? I would be interested in real answers with facts. As for his military record with an admiral for father we can not trust that at all. However, I am not willing to foam at the mouth for any of these things . . . nor should anyone.

  2. Speaking of oligarchs--the Senate is filled with them and the House as well: the late Ted Kennedy, Feinstein, Pelosi, the late John McCain ... A person can be an oligarch or a plutocrat and still be a decent person. However, the world they inhabit is very different from the one we live in. And many can not grasp what it is like to be only middle or upper middle class. "Crumbs" is a few thousand dollars according to Pelosi. IF we were ants the oligarchs would step on us and not notice unless they happened to be Jains. Anyway John McCain did not have the common touch; he was not a man of the people which it could be argued that Donald Trump is!


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